The First Year

Looking back at our turbulent first year as liveaboards

Three months.
I don’t want to make friends;
I don’t want to get attached;
and I certainly don’t want to stay in Charleston for more than three months. 


It was never my intent to stay in Charleston for longer than three months.  I put up a fight about coming here in the first place because I loved the South Florida sunshine, palm trees, and clear coastal waters.  When I reluctantly agreed to come to Charleston, it was with the caveat of only staying here three months–until hurricane season ended…last year.

Here we are, another hurricane season–a full year later–and we are still in Charleston.  The last year has been a challenging one for us individually, as a couple, and a family without ever leaving the area.

Just a quick re-cap, we came here to seek shelter from hurricanes after purchasing our boat in Florida.  We started planning this “adventure” over 2.5 years ago and what an adventure it has been.  No sooner than we arrived in Charleston, we were treated to a tropical storm, followed by Hurricane Matthew, then the loss of TJ’s job–all within a two-month window.  Needless to say, our Caribbean adventure to clear blue seas and sugar white beaches has yet to be seen.

I’ve grown weary of this liveaboard life, something I don’t even try to hide any longer.  When we first decided to do this I knew a minimalistic lifestyle would come with challenges, but this has felt overwhelming at times.  Between experiencing stormy seas, that kicked off my body’s affinity for panic attacks, during a 1,000NM passage in February while sailing from the Turks and Caicos to Grenada for our business; to suffering from severe anxiety and stress during storms due to our bow line snapping in a storm in March; even the smallest storm causes my stomach to turn and my palms to sweat.

However, the lessons we have learned over the course of the last year are proving to be humbling and invaluable in this thing called life.

I thought downsizing from our home to a boat was going to bring out the minimalist in me.  As it turns out, a sudden job loss of the sole employee for a family truly shows you what you need and what you can live without.  At first I thought some of these things would be short-term and temporary–like giving up my $70 Dolce & Gabbana perfume, shopping at Earth Fare (because milk in glass bottles is soooooooo much better ::eye roll::), and my addiction to Amazon Prime.  However, as the year has dragged us through the mud, I’ve learned so many of these things I thought I needed for status, comfort, and pleasure actually don’t fill any of the above listed areas.  When we move back on land (someday) I don’t need a big, new-build house that costs $500,000+ because I am not in competition with anyone.  My home and my things are not my status symbols, my actions and how I treat others are.

Lets all be honest for a moment, shall we?  Charleston has an image problem (part of the reason I didn’t want to stay here).  This is the most pretentious, self-absorbed place in which I’ve ever lived…yet, I have still managed to fall in love with one area of it–Johns Island.  In a county where everything has to be newer, bigger, better, and more expensive; I’ve discovered a pocket of people who, for many, lots of these things on which people in Charleston pride themselves hold no real value.  Where people are genuinely nice without flashing their money, things, and materialistic nature in your face; as if to say, “how do you compare?”

In the last year I’ve been humbled by the people in this place; people who hardly knew me but extended their helping hands when I was in need–financially and as a liveaboard mom.  The marina gave me a job and lowered our slip fee the day after TJ lost his job.  People from church and marina have made so many offers to help with Vivienne, the boat, or the use of a spare room in which I could stay if I ever want to leave the boat for a night.  People have cooked dinner for me when I was weary and struggling; let me use their washer and dryer so I wouldn’t have to pay $10 to do it all at the marina; and allowed me to borrow their car when mine was broken and I couldn’t afford to fix it until pay day.

God has really humbled me as a person and our entire family.  He knocked my pridefulness down a few notches (okay, several) and taught me to truly lean on His loving people at St. John’s Parish Church.  A few months ago I made the conscious decision to accept this is where God wants us for the time being.  I decided to stop holding up my walls and let people in to be my friends and confidants; realizing we won’t be going anywhere for a long while.  My life has become enriched by these friendships and I find myself choosing to be more involved in my local community.  I even have a job working for the church!

Each day I find myself more and more connected to this place, but in the back of my mind I still feel God’s plans for our sailing adventure are not completely closed, just on pause indefinitely.  As much as I don’t like living on the boat, it does not appear we will be moving back on land anytime soon.  As much as Charleston is pretentious, its home and rental prices reflect that nature.  Doing the math, we cannot find anything on land for cheaper than we can live on this boat.  Given that we are digging ourselves out of the financial hole joblessness has left, we cannot afford (literally) to move back on land.  Thus, my resignation to God that we are EXACTLY where He wants us–on a boat, on Johns Island, connecting with His people (lost and saved).

I’ve decided to stop fighting it and just allow God to work through me; for whatever reason He has us here on the boat, it will all work to His glory and His benefit.
I don’t have to understand it.
I don’t have to like it.  
I do feel compelled to follow it.

So, instead of continuing to lament about our situation and living on the boat, I am making a conscious effort to choose to be positive.  We have a “roof” (deck) over our heads, electricity, water, food, and the love of a community both in the marina and on land.  Yes, living on a boat can be incredibly stressful but it is forcing me to grow.

While I don’t see myself sleeping through the next big storm that blows in, I do plan to work through my anxiety rather than giving into it.  Rather than sending TJ text after text saying, “I hate this boat. ” “I quit.”  “I’m ready to be back on land.” “Stupid boat.” (Yes, I really do that–ask him), I intend to be more intentional about spending time with God in those moments; seeking out His will for me while I’m on the boat in this location. As much as He has already taught me in 12 months, I’m sure I still have a lot to learn!

P.S. For the record, I do still miss the smell of my Dolce & Gabbana perfume…a luxury long gone.  Hey…I’m only human.  🙂

Te Whakapono,

~~ All things are possible for those who believe.  -Mark 9:23 ~~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s